How cyber criminals use popular news stories to spread spam and malware
Earlier this year, Gartner released a research paper confirming that people continue to be the weakest link in the security chain. There are a number of ways in which cyber criminals exploit this fact. One of the more popular techniques is to gain leverage from high-profile news stories.
As the world has been gripped by the tragedy of the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, criminals have again sought to capitalise on our seemingly insatiable appetite for news. The viral nature of such stories can tempt ordinarily cautious people to lower their guard, making them more susceptible to opening e-mail attachments or browsing to suspect web sites.
Whilst MH370 has been a recent vector of choice for scammers, we’ve certainly seen this sort behaviour before. In the past year, fake stories about the new English royal baby, the Syrian war, the winter Olympics, the election of the Pope, and the earthquake in the Philippines, have all been used to lure unsuspecting users to malicious sites. These sites can harness sophisticated techniques for the delivery of malware or hijacking of credentials.
So, what should you do?
Firstly, remember that education is key. Criminals will continue to prey directly on people because this continues to be a successful approach. However user education will make this a less effective endeavour. The Australian government provides a useful starting point at their Stay Smart Online website.
Secondly, real-time anti-phishing and reputation analysis of traffic should be employed to catch visits to suspect web sites and to detect the signs of advanced persistent threats that may be lurking in your network. Tesserent’s managed security service employs up-to-the-minute feeds from multiple high-end reputation services to detect and thwart new threats.
Thirdly, it is important to not just install a product and assume it is keeping you protected. The value of a managed security service has never been greater than it is now because the use of monitoring and big data analytics is critical to keeping you protected in a way that standalone products cannot do.
Cyren, one of Tesserent’s security partners, has published their Security Yearbook, which provides further interesting reading.